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He bought a stake in Denver’s Arena League team, which gave him some much-needed practice in how to be involved in football without being on the field.

“That was really hard for me the first two or three years, not being able to get my hands on the ball,” he said.

But there was no more helpless feeling than being a Broncos alum with no way to help. From afar, Elway watched as his old team went on a slow, steady decline _ at the low point, a disgrace with a 4-12 record.

Every quarterback that came through the facility dealt with the same theme: He was playing John Elway’s old position. But there would never be another Elway. All the quarterbacks, one way or another, proved that mantra correct.

It reached a critical point when the Broncos hired Josh McDaniels as head coach and McDaniels identified himself as the only NFL personnel man who felt Tim Tebow was worth a first-round draft pick.

The 2010 season in Denver was marred by losing and the McDaniels videotaping scandal. But the biggest question hovering over this franchise was why McDaniels drafted Tebow if he didn’t want to play him? McDaniels never really answered that one.

And while the Broncos never saw their string of consecutive sellouts, dating to 1970, jeopardized, the number of empty seats at the stadium, the lustiness of the boos from the fans who did attend, and the discontent that grew on the radio shows and internet sites were impossible to ignore.

“Certainly, there was the idea out there that they not only had to restore themselves competitively, but their image needed massive repair work,” said Sandy Clough, a longtime veteran of Denver sports talk radio.

In stepped Elway, who quickly established a direct line with fans through the team website and a Twitter account.

He also was quick to point out two facts:

_He was smart enough to know what he didn’t know

_The only acceptable goal for the Broncos was winning the Super Bowl.

The second part used to go unsaid in Denver but had gotten lost somewhere amid the turmoil.

Shortly after his hiring, on Jan. 5, 2011, a series of dominoes started falling.

Elway hired coach John Fox, who had already shown his penchant for turnarounds in Carolina.

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